Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eighth District Cops 'Play it by the Heart' and Restore Family's Faith in Goodness

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

Just as you do, I wear several hats.

As a longtime journalist, I'm used to seeing crime news. It is a sad but steady part of the news stream.

As a Southwest Side homeowner who knows what it is to be a crime victim, I get angry when I see crime affect my neighbors in this part of the city. It hits close to home.

But let me say this: as a mother of two daughters, I want to wring the necks of the lowlifes who burglarized Jennifer Weaver's apartment.

Here's the story:

Jennifer is a 33-year-old single mother of three girls: Raven, 8, Sadie, 2, and Grace, 1. As is so often the case in this economic depression, times are tough for Jennifer. She is unemployed and on public assistance.

Just before three o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, Jennifer and the girls arrived home to their apartment near 61st Place and Spaulding, only to find it ransacked by burglars.

Predictably, the criminals swiped what cash they could get their grubby paws on, about $300 in rent money that was hidden. Also no surprise, they stole whatever electronics they could: a couple of video game consoles, several video games, and an assortment of movies on DVD.

Then came the low blow.

They stole literally hundreds of dollars' worth of diabetes medicine, blood-glucose test strips and syringes---all vitally important to the health of eight-year-old Raven, who lives with Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes and a few other significant health concerns.

And to add insult to injury, these thugs actually raided the fridge and cabinets---stealing several hundred dollars' worth of groceries. Milk, frozen dinners, even a box of Cocoa Puffs.

"I was in complete shock," Jennifer recalls. "All the electronics (stolen), you can see that. But medicine and food? They stole quite a bit of food. It's like they went food shopping in my house."

Jennifer called police, who stopped by a while later to investigate and make out a crime report. Responding were Officer Robert Cavallone and Officer Raquel Castaneda.

According to CPD, "The officers entered the apartment and saw firsthand how destructive the burglars were. Every drawer had been overturned and completely ransacked, including the refrigerator. The victim’s mattress had been flipped over, the kitchen chairs all thrown about, and the bathroom window broken."

As Jennifer answered the officers' questions, Raven started to cry. Her meds were gone, her toys were gone, the food and rent money were gone. Even her purse was stolen.

How low do you have to be to steal an eight-year-old girl's purse? Really.

But here's where the story takes a turn for the better.

Officers Cavallone and Castaneda could have finished their report and left with an unspoken "Tough luck, sister." But instead of playing it by the book, they decided to play it by the heart.

You see, hardened and professional as Cavallone and Castaneda doubtless are, they fought back tears themselves. Cavallone had three dollars in his wallet and gave it to Jennifer, suggesting that she buy milk for the girls.

After they left, Cavallone and Castaneda, along with Officer David Falardeau, swung into action, determined to do a good deed.

And the very next day, as Jennifer relates, "Officer Cavallone and Officer Falardeau came back. They said they came to see if they had my phone number correct on the police report. Then they said they had to go back to the car; and when they came back in, they were burdened with bags."

Officers Falardeau and Cavallone.
The three officers had pooled their own money and bought food for the family. They also purchased an electronic Leapster game for little Grace, an Angry Birds game for Sadie, and a brand new Skylanders Wii game system with two games for Raven. Knowing how devastated Raven was, they also presented her with a new purse to replace the one that was stolen in the burglary, along with a few other small items.

"I started crying," Jennifer recalls. "They replaced my eight year old’s Wii and bought her toys. My eight year old is really ill. They replaced food items. The bought my two younger children toys."

"And it isn't what they bought, as much as (the fact that) they did it. Really."

"So if you write a story, please make the story about them," Jennifer told me on Tuesday night. "They deserve it. There are not enough people who think there are still good people out there."

Agreed, Jennifer. They do deserve it. Three good police officers who saw a family in distress and played it by the heart.

But I suspect that part of their goodness includes a humble character. And here's what makes me think that.

You see, the crime did occur on a Thursday and the act of kindness and generosity on a Friday:

Thursday/Friday, November 15/16, 2012.

Not being showboats or headline hogs, the officers essentially kept it to themselves. It wasn't until two months later, when Jennifer saw CPD Eighth District CAPS Sergeant Allen Cain and told him of the trio's good deed that the situation came to light. Cain tipped us off, and we thank him for that. He enabled us to share the story with you.

So a tip of the cap to Officers Robert Cavallone, Raquel Castaneda and David Falardeau for reminding us all that behind a typical police officer's badge beats a strong and compassionate heart.

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  1. Kudo's to these officers but this kind of thing happens very often on the Chicago police department..

    1. It happens everyday. But this won't sell newspapers. Great job!

    2. I'm sure it does David, for some reason unbeknowst to me they would rather report about all the bad things that happen in and around Chicago. How refreshing it would be to have a news channel that reported on only good stories that happen everyday in the City!!

    3. We'll assume that in your criticism of the news media, you're not referring to the Southwest Chicago Post. When we learned of these three officers' quiet act of kindness, we jumped at the chance to report it--and then reported it. We don't base our actions on what sells newspapers. Hey, we don't even sell subscriptions! :--)

    4. Thank you officers for showing why most police officers get into law enforcement. You believe the fight is worth it to safeguard good people. You find out quickly there are way more bad guys than police officers working the street. You learned it helps to destress each day by finding a way to do a little or large act of kindness; epecially rewarding when you see the shocked and smiling face of the soul you help. It really does help both to give and receive. Tks, I left in 2010, couldn't stand the merit bosses and their pitiful priorities for the officers and Sgts on patrol. So happy today to see new guys still have heart. Old school Sgt Stay true to yourselves! Retired Sgt T H

    5. THANK YOU, for posting this story, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS <<<>>> and remember that the police always were the good guys < >

    6. Wonderfful story of caring for the people they were sworn to "Protect and serve".

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  3. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. This should be the leading story on all stations across the nation!

  4. I sent it in to
    These guys are heroes. And so is the family.
    Better catch those thieves and make them give back Everything!!

  5. Wow! What an amazing story.Very proud to have these officers serving in our area.It's nice to hear good things about the men & women officers instead of just the negative, which is often is often the case in the media.

    1. Thanks, Dr. Coler. As you know, there's no shortage of bad news out there---and the SWCP is one news media organization that's always on the lookout for good news. We're grateful to CPD Sergeant Allen Cain for tipping us off on this one.

  6. Most cops are like these three, great hardworking people who do the right thing. Good job all three. And by the way , one of these guys was off duty and backed me up on a traffic stop about a month ago at a gas station, I remembered him standing by his truck while I dealt with some punk by myself. He never said anything to me, he just made sure I was good and left when my backup arrived. I learned from a friend that was friends with him. Thanks for that. I know if I had to fight with this kid this guy would have helped me. The best kinds of people are the ones who do the right thing and expect nothing in return.

  7. Great job. Thi s deserves an Honorable Mention.

  8. Great story. Great to see the CPD get some positive press and positive comments!
    Michael T. Sweig


  10. I am not surprised ! There are many many good officers on the force. Despite the negative press they get I know deep in my heart... our Chicago Police Department is the best! Job well done as always ! Thanks for serving and protecting to the fullest extent !

  11. Nice to read some good news for a change of pace. Kudos to the officers!


  13. I must be honest and say that this story moved me but didn't surprise me. Every encounter I have had in the past 15 years with the CPD has been pleasent. I was in an accident involving a pedestrian and the officers were as worried about me as they were about the kid that ran into my car as he was fleeing from someone chasing him after he stole a car stereo. They didn't know what had happened when they showed up and they didn't race to make judgements. It seemed to me that the safety of all parties invovled was thier biggest concern.
    So again, I'm not surprised.

  14. Thank God there are Officers like this.

    Perhaps the burglary could have been prevented if Rahm hired enough police to keep up with retirements.

    Anyone in the media or any citizen should ask Rahm or McCarthy a simple math question. (A - B = C)
    A> How many sworn Chicago Police Officers were on the C.P.D when you started?
    B> How many are there on the C.P.D. now?
    C> Figure the difference, citizens are paying the price in taxes, blood and grief everyday.

    Go ask them. They will give you all kinds of Smoke and Mirrors run around but they will not give you a straight truthful answer.

    I will ask them if I ever see them.

  15. Im not surprised by the kindness of these officers. I had the honor of working with PO Casteneda in the 011th District. She was a good and kind officer back then. Glad to hear she hasnt lost her touch. Working this job can make you hard and heartless sometimes. Good for you Raquel.